The five Ps of disaster management Editorial 26th May’20 HindustanTimes

The five Ps of disaster management Editorial 26th May’20 HindustanTimes

Destruction caused by Amphan cyclone:

  • Amphan was the first super-cyclone in the Bay of Bengal after 1999 (ie, wind speeds beyond 220 kph).
  • West Bengal chief minister (CM) even called Amphan “a bigger disaster than Covid-19”.
  • In less than two days, Bengal lost an estimated Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • The cyclone left 80 dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, uprooted trees, ravaged houses, marooned dwellings, knocked out electricity and phone lines, flooded cities and villages, plundered embankments, fencings and boundaries.
  • It wreaked ecological destruction and devastation, especially in the eco-sensitive Sundarbans.

Relief package announced is too small:

  • The Prime Minister (PM) made an aerial tour of the destruction and announced a relief package of Rs 1,000 crore ($132 million) for WB and Rs 500 crore ($66 million) for Odisha.
  • However, these figures underestimate both the size of the disaster and, consequently, the size of the package needed to deal with it.
    • In comparision, the 2001 Gujarat earthquake led to the central government releasing Rs 500 crore (at 2001 value, 20 years ago) plus ad hoc release of share in central taxes.
  • On top of it, the Centre is yet to release to Bengal the pending GST refunds of approx Rs 2,400 crore for last quarter of FY 2019-20.
  • Centre is also yet to release Rs 53,000 crore on account of social security refunds from central government schemes (such as the MGNREGS, Food Security Act and so on) owed to the state.

Emergency steps needed to ensure efficient rehabilitation and effective growth of the affected areas

  • We need five “Ps” to cope up with recurring disasters:
    • Prominence, as in the role of governments
    • Pool of funds
    • Planning, especially long-term, of rehabilitation and development
    • Policy qua institutional support
    • Preparedness qua countermeasures

Non-discriminatory approach to all states:

  • There is a need for a genuinely non-discriminatory and equal approach towards all states.
  • The Gujarat episode led many international agencies to come up with financial assistance including the European Union, United States (US) Agency for International Development (USAID), Canadian International Development Agency and World Bank ($300 m) and Asian Development Bank ($500 m).
  • Irrespective of a state’s eligibility or capacity, the Centre must specially reach out to international institutions.

Greater allocation to fight natural disasters:

  • There is a need to exponentially increase government allocation to fight natural disasters. 
  • As an aspiring global leader, India cannot pale when it comes to justifiable proportionate global comparisons.
  • For example, after the 2011 tsunami-earthquake, Japan allocated $167 billion for rehabilitation and recovery. It made a five-year plan to do so comprehensively.
  • Similarly, the US Congress allocated $121.7 billion in hurricane relief in 2005 and 2008. 

Targeted and focused relief measures needed:

  • Random allocation is far less useful than targeted and focused relief measures.
  • Japan’s targeted five-year plan focussed on each stakeholder — from fisheries to housing and power.
  • Grand mega-announcements immediately after natural disasters, but without specific sub-allocations, lose their limited vigour by the time they reach the ground target.

Robust institutional framework:

  • Planned and targeted measures need to be coupled with a robust institutional framework.
  • After 2011, the Japanese government enacted the “Act on the Development of Tsunami-resilient Communities”, to efficiently combine structural and non-structural measures to minimise damage.
  • All municipalities had to draft their reconstruction plans based on modelling and the plans were based entirely on urban planning, land management, structural mitigation and relocation.
  • Such innovations have barely been conceptualised in India, much less implemented.
  • Short-term ad hoc measures are more prominent in India that medium-term thinking or long-term planning.

Policy focus on pre-disaster countermeasures:

  • Despite our cyclical annual natural disasters, we have very little policy focus on pre-disaster countermeasures.
  • Prevention is always better than cure, and such countermeasures will be highly effective as well as cost-effective.
  • Many countries in their disaster-prone coastal regions have constructed high seawalls to protect vulnerable communities.
  • Odisha’s cyclone shelters are a praiseworthy-but-partial achievement, and must be followed elsewhere.


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